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    5. Declan Rice is the Premier League's most influential player – ..


    Declan Rice is the Premier League's most influential player – he's Arsenal's Roy Keane.

    Declan Rice will surely become the captain of Arsenal, and possibly the England national team. Photo: Getty Images/Stuart MacFarlane

    Declan Rice, £105 million, a bargain for Arsenal. There are certain players who move in for astronomical fees and are almost guaranteed to succeed. I feel the same way about Rice as I did about Roy Keane when he joined Manchester United for a UK record fee in 1993, and about Alan Shearer when he joined Newcastle United in 1996. Harry Kane is another; This summer he was a guarantee for Bayern Munich.

    From the moment he joined Arsenal you knew Rice was going to be a brilliant player. He's probably the most influential player in the Premier League this season and every time I look at him he reminds me of Keane. He has the same looks and his passing ability is incredibly underrated.

    When you think about the great midfielders of the past, they all had an aura on the field. Keane had it, as did players like Graeme Souness and Bryan Robson. I see the same qualities in Rice, who could play a decisive role in Arsenal's title run this season.

    There is no greater compliment I can give Rice than this: I would rather have him in my team than Rodri. The Manchester City midfielder was arguably the best player in the treble-winning team, along with Erling Haaland and Bernardo Silva, and he scored the winning goal in the Champions League final. He is a brilliant player, but I would still prefer Rice.

    Few players have the ability and personality required to go to a big club and instantly become one of the team's best players. Jude Bellingham did the same at Real Madrid and Rice did the same at Arsenal. It feels like he has been playing for Arsenal for five years.

    Watching Rice reminds me of when I was in the Liverpool academy. We were always told to pass faster and put the ball at the feet of our teammates. Rice does just that – he hits it on his teammates. It sets the tone for everything else.

    We often think of great passers as players who break through defenses through the ball or switch plays 60 yards, but sometimes the best passers are those who can break through lines over shorter distances. The defensive midfielder's job is to deliver the ball quickly and sharply to his front players across the court. Keane was great at it, as was Rice.

    Other pundits criticized Rice for not scoring enough goals, but that was never part of his role at West Ham United. He played as a defensive midfielder under defensive manager David Moyes. We've never judged players like Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira on their goals, so why did people criticize Rice for it? It was always strange.

    Rice now plays for Arsenal and has already scored three goals in the league. If he scores seven or eight times this season, it will be a great return for a defensive midfielder. Vieira, for example, never scored more than six goals in a single league campaign.

    All three of Rice's goals were important, too. He scored two winners against Manchester United and Luton Town, and his long-range strike against Chelsea began Arsenal's return to Stamford Bridge.

    Rice's goals were influential, not luxurious. Photo: Getty Images/Mark Leach

    The three goals gave Arsenal five points – without them Mikel Arteta's side would have been third in the league and behind this weekend's opponents Aston Villa. These are important moments that determine the outcome of important matches.

    Football's most underrated attribute is accessibility, and Rice never seems to miss a game. When I look back on my career, I am incredibly proud of this: in 10 seasons, from 2000 to 2010, I played at least 50 games in nine of them. It will almost certainly be the same with Rice. You know he will start 50 times a season, just like he did for the last two years at West Ham.

    As has always been the case with Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, it seems inevitable that Rice will one day captain Arsenal. Thanks to Gerrard, all Liverpool players knew his time would come. I expect the same to happen with Arsenal, and perhaps England – although he may be fighting Bellingham to one day replace Kane as captain.

    For Arsenal, Rice's move was a no-brainer. I believe that in seven or eight years he will be talked about as a great Arsenal player and that his £105 million fee will look like nothing. Ultimately, he could be to Arsenal what Virgil van Dijk was to Liverpool. Van Dijk cost £75 million, but after all he achieved at Anfield, that fee is rightfully considered a bargain.

    Of course, City were interested, and Arsenal this season there was no chance. if Rice had gone to the Etihad instead of the Emirates. Thanks to him, the Arsenal team now has a player who will become a club legend, and a man who can bring the Premier League title back to north London.

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